In a surprising turn of events just months before the highly anticipated 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Lok Sabha MP from Munger, Rajiv Ranjan Singh, also known as Lalan Singh, has resigned as the national president of Janata Dal-United (JDU). The mantle of leadership has been passed on to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, sparking speculation and tensions within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Sources within the NDA, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are pointing to a possible internal rift within the JDU. However, Lalan Singh asserts that his departure from the position was a voluntary decision, refuting any claims of factionalism. According to reports in Hindustan Live, he contends that he stepped down with Nitish Kumar’s emotional persuasion for him to retain the presidency.
Lalan Singh, who assumed the role of national president on July 30, 2021, cited a significant shift in the party as a crucial factor necessitating the change. He vehemently denies any internal disputes and accuses a section of the media of spreading baseless rumors, placing the blame on the BJP for such assertions.
In an exclusive interview, Lalan Singh revealed the intricate details surrounding his resignation and the subsequent appointment of Nitish Kumar as the new national president. He claimed that Nitish Kumar initially resisted the nomination but eventually agreed to take on the position after a five-day silence.
Lalan Singh disclosed that he assumed the presidency of the party on July 30, 2021. Nitish Kumar, however, initially resisted the proposal, urging others to “leave him alone” when Lalan Singh’s name was put forward. Despite repeated pleas from Singh not to press the matter, Nitish Kumar maintained his stance, leading to a five-day communication breakdown between the two.
The election process, initiated in December 2022, marked a critical juncture for the party. As the National President nomination loomed, Anil Hegde, the returning officer, became a central figure. Nitish Kumar, determined to have Singh assume the role, requested him to sign the nomination papers. However, Singh declined, citing his unwillingness to accept the position.
In a subsequent call, Nitish Kumar insisted, declaring, “I would not sign the motion if you don’t nominate yourself.” Lalan Singh alleged that, once again, he found himself appointed as the national president on the directives of a senior party leader with whom he shared a 37-year-long association. However, Singh voiced his grievances, detailing the challenges he faced, including extensive visits to his constituency and party duties.
Expressing his desire to step down from the presidency, Singh informed the chief minister of his decision. In response, Nitish Kumar, in a somewhat unconventional manner, remarked that he would “smash his head” if the national president discussed resignation. Singh, choosing silence over confrontation, navigated through this tumultuous chapter in the intricate dynamics of JDU leadership.
The veteran politician alleges that he faced numerous challenges during his tenure, impacting his constituency and party work. Despite expressing his desire to be relieved of his duties, Nitish Kumar insisted on retaining the presidency himself. Lalan Singh asserts that his resignation was timed to align with the upcoming elections, emphasising the need for a well-known face to lead the JDU.
He declared, “I take great pride in Nitish Kumar succeeding me as president. I am also gratified that he is assuming the presidency in my stead.”
In response to a question regarding Nitish Kumar’s dissatisfaction with his perceived closeness to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, he commented that Nitish Kumar approved the coalition due to enduring significant humiliation while in power with the BJP. Recounting Nitish Kumar’s grievances, he shared, “Nitish Kumar used to confide in me about the offensive behavior of BJP members during our evening meetings. He lamented that they pressured him to become the chief minister but failed to respect the conditions of the alliance. BJP leaders consistently claimed that Nitish Kumar became the chief minister solely due to their generosity.” Lalan Singh cited Nitish Kumar and asserted that although JDU had more seats during the formation of the NDA government in Bihar in 2005 and 2010, the BJP was consistently accorded respect.
Following RJD’s proposal for a grand alliance, Lalan Singh noted that Nitish Kumar authorised him to negotiate the offer. He issued a stern warning, stating, “I will serve legal notices to those claiming that RJD is orchestrating operations within the party.” Reflecting on the party’s inception in 1995, he questioned, “How can I sabotage the party that I founded?” and accused, “This is all propaganda by the ‘Godi’ media, disseminated at the behest of the BJP.”
Addressing concerns about Nitish Kumar’s dissatisfaction with his alleged closeness to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Lalan Singh defended the coalition, stating that Nitish Kumar approved it due to past humiliations while in power with the BJP.
Recalling a period of separation from Nitish Kumar, Lalan Singh emphasised that despite disagreements from 2010 to 2013, he did not depart and returned in 2013 due to the impracticality of staying in a rental house instead of his own place. When confronted about the alleged covert meeting with 12 JDU MLAs to install Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav as the chief minister, he cautioned of legal action against disseminators of misinformation, adding, “I will sue them for defamation.”
Lalan Singh levelled accusations against the BJP, asserting that the party breached promises. He claimed that seven of their MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh defected to the BJP while in government, and a similar situation occurred with five out of six legislators in Manipur. Criticising the ex-president of the party, Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, for the 2020 assembly election setback, Lalan Singh alleged that Nitish Kumar, despite reluctance due to the limited number of MLAs, was compelled to become the chief minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Amidst swirling controversies, Lalan Singh vows to serve legal notices to those claiming RJD interference within the party, attributing such allegations to what he calls “Godi media” acting at the behest of the BJP. He firmly denies any possibility of a JDU-NDA alliance, emphasising that the party is moving in a different direction.
As the political landscape continues to evolve, the resignation of Lalan Singh and the subsequent appointment of Nitish Kumar as the new national president add an unexpected twist to the unfolding drama leading up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.